If you were freaking out in the wake of last week's announcement about Microsoft Office for iPad, it's time to relax a bit. Yes, a similar release for the Modern environment in Windows 8.1 is coming together more slowly and will trail the iPad version by some number of months. But here's the good news: As I had hoped and expected, Office "Touch" for Windows will be more powerful and feature-rich than Office for iPad. And that's a good thing.
It's not clear that Microsoft has an actual name for this product. Microsoft corporate vice president Kirk Koenigsbauer referred to it as "a touch-first version of Office for this Modern Windows." So I'll just call it Office "Touch" for Windows for now.
And as you may recall—it was just a few days ago—I expressed a hope in Some Thoughts About Office "Touch" for Windows that this Modern version of Windows would be better than Office for iPad. And, it's pretty clear that this is true.
During today's Build 2014 keynote, Mr. Koenigsbauer provided a very early look at PowerPoint "Touch"—what he called "a preview of a work in progress"—and it's not hard to see the differences between this and Office for iPad, even now. For example, here's the Home ribbon in both PowerPoint "Touch" (top) and PowerPoint for iPad (bottom):
Two things stand out here. First, this particular ribbon has more options available in the Windows version. And second, the Windows version has three ribbons, Design, Animations, and View, which are not present in the iPad version.
The "Touch" version of the Office apps also support the Backstage view we're used to from the Windows desktop versions, though the Recent screen in the iPad version is somewhat close, albeit less attractive.
Koenigsbauer stepped through most of the UI ribbons, giving us a pretty good idea of what functionality is available in the PowerPoint app, at least. Here's a quick run-through:
He also showed off some pop-up menus and various touch capabilities around image sizing and rotation and the like.
Finally, we got to see some presentation functionality in action, including transitions and slide selection.
As Windows Modern app, PowerPoint (and the Office "Touch" apps) will also work fully with a stylus if you have a Surface Pro or other tablet with that capability, another feature Office for iPad lacks.
When will we actually gets our hands on Office "Touch" for Windows? My bet is late this year, but as I wrote last week, hopefully we'll see a preview version before that. Maybe TechEd?